Cade Brumley, superintendent of the Jefferson Parish school system, was named state superintendent of education Wednesday after two tense rounds of voting.

Brumley, 39, got the eighth and deciding vote when it was cast by Sandy Holloway, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The selection required at least eight of 11 votes on BESE, and meeting that threshold ended an impasse that went on unofficially for days, and even after the voting began.

In the first round, efforts to name Brumley and two other finalists to the job produced 5-6 votes, prompting a 10-minute break for board members.

The other finalists nominated Wednesday were Jessica Baghian, 35, assistant state superintendent of education and Lonnie Luce, 51, former superintendent of the St. James Parish school system.

All three were at the meeting, and Brumley, who watched from the back of the auditorium, began getting congratulations after the vote was announced.

"As a Louisiana boy, I am just overjoyed by the opportunity to do this work," Brumley said in a brief interview.

What the new superintendent will be paid, when he takes the job and other details are still to be worked out.

Former state Superintendent of Education John White was paid $275,000 per year, and state officials said Brumley's salary is near that in his current job.

Brumley could be confirmed by the state Senate before adjournment on June 1.

His salary is subject to review by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

The selection is a victory for Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose three appointees on BESE backed Brumley on both ballots where he was the nominee: Doris Voitier, of Metaire; Belinda Davis, of Baton Rouge and Tommy Roque, of Alexandria.

Edwards chafed during White's tenure, and his education allies were long aligned with the winner.

"Cade has a record of success as a teacher, coach, principal and as superintendent of two districts, DeSoto and Jefferson Parish," the governor said in a statement. "What I know and appreciate about Cade is that as a leader he has a record of being inclusive. He has a seat at the table for everyone as he seeks and listens to input from all stakeholders."

Moments before in the second round of voting Baghian got six votes and five opposed.

Brumley won three votes in the second round that he did not have in Round 1: Holloway, Preston Castille, of Baton Rouge and Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans.

Holloway and Orange Jones initially backed Luce and Castille sided with Baghian.

In the run-up to Wednesday's meeting, advocates of sweeping changes in public schools generally backed Baghian while teacher unions, school board members and Brumley's fellow superintendents were seen as aligned with him.

But after the vote, Holloway disputed the view that Brumley's selection will mean any kind of undoing of major school changes implemented in recent years.

"I do not expect any of our candidates to roll back accountability and high standards, curriculum, etc," she said. "I truly believe he will move us forward."

Others said they did not want a prolonged deadlock, especially after a four-month hunt and public schools in limbo because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange Jones said after the tally that the view Brumley wants to unravel key changes in public schools was largely created by the news media.

"He is a proven reformer," she said.

The superintendent carries out policies enacted by BESE.

He also plays a huge role in the direction of charter schools, how public school teachers are rated, state aid for public schools and what education issues get the spotlight.

Tony Davis, vice-president of the board and another BESE member previously considered sympathetic to backers of sweeping changes, backed Brumley in the first round, Baghian in the second round and Brumley on the decisive tally.

"This is a tough, tough choice for everyone," Davis said after the vote. 

He said he believes Brumley can work with a wide range of groups to "make sure we are serving the needs of every kid and their parents across the state."

Belinda Davis, one of the governor's appointees, said Brumley was helped by some of the 7,500 public comments submitted to BESE about the next superintendent, including the need for an educator who has seen things from the ground level.

Brumley is superintendent of the state's largest school district, which includes 51,000 students and 82 schools.

Last year voters in Jefferson Parish approved a 10-year property tax hike that raises about $29 million per year to boost pay for teachers and other employees.

Before that he was superintendent of the DeSoto Parish school system in northwest Louisiana.

Brumley has also served as assistant superintendent, principal, assistant principal, teacher and basketball coach.

"I'm tested. I'm proven. I'm ready to lead on day one," he said in his application letter for the job.

Brumley received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern State University, his master's degree from LSU-Shreveport and his doctorate from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nachodoches, Texas.

His wife, Toni, is a charter school educator and the couple has two teenage sons.

Baghian is an eight-year veteran of the state Department of Education and a graduate of Harvard Law School.

"While the news today didn't break the way I had hoped, I want to make one thing very clear: I am so very proud of our collective work on behalf of Louisiana's children and families," she said in a statement.

The search went on for four months, including virtual interviews of roughly 100 minutes each for the finalists.

White left his post in March after an eight-year tenure.

Beth Scioneaux, a top official of the state Department of Education, has been serving as acting superintendent since then.

On the decisive ballot Brumley was backed by Preston Castille, of Baton Rouge; Belinda Davis, of Baton Rouge; Tony Davis, of Natchitoches; Ashley Ellis, of Monroe; Sandy Holloway, of Thibodaux; Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans; Tommy Roque, of Alexandria and Doris Voitier, of Metairie.

Voting "no" were Holly Boffy, of Lafayette; Jim Garvey, of Metairie and Ronnie Morris, of Baton Rouge.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.